Room at the table, indeed [Carrie Newcomer]

I was lucky enough to see the prairie mystic, Carrie Newcomer, in concert last night at Old Town School of Folk Music. She captivated that small music hall with her quiet voice, spoken peacefully and full of hope. Every song rang clear with prophetic truth, a truth that felt comforting when little else does right now. In putting to words what we’ve all been feeling these few weeks she said, “We need to be better people than we ever thought we’d have to be.”

We need to be better people than we ever thought we’d have to be. [Carrie Newcomer]

I first heard about Carrie Newcomer through On Being and was drawn to her voice immediately. See some excerpts from that conversation here:

On Being: A Conversation with Carrie Newcomer & Krista Tippett

She opened with this song, the only one of the night I hadn’t heard before. It could not be more relevant for these present and future days. (No, she did not write it last week like I originally thought – it’s from her 2002 album, The Gathering of Spirits.) Please listen and see the lyrics below.

I Heard an Owl by Carrie Newcomer

so don’t tell me hate is ever
right or god’s will
these are the wheels we put
in motion ourselves
and the whole world weeps
and is weeping still
though shaken i still believe
the best of what we all can be
and the only peace this world will know
can only come from love.

i am a voice that’s calling out
across the great divide
and i am only just one person
that feels they have to try
and the questions fall like trees or dust
and rise like prayers above
but the only word is “courage”
and the only answer “ love”

light every candle that we can
we need some light to see
in the days of deepest loss
treat each other tenderly
and the arms of god will gather in
each sparrow that falls
but makes no separation
just fiercely loves us all.

so don’t tell me hate is ever
right or god’s will
these are the wheels we put
in motion ourselves
and the whole world weeps
and is weeping still
though shaken i still believe
the best of what we all can be
and the only peace this world will know
can only come from love.

Carrie’s songs are powerful anthems for this hope she mentions, “…the kind of hope that gets up every morning and chooses to try to make the world just a little kinder place in your own way. And the next morning gets up, and does it again. And the next morning, gets up, and you have been disappointed. And you do it again. I wanted to write about the kind of hope that’s faithful, that kind that Niebuhr talked about: “anything worth doing will probably not be achieved in one lifetime. So we are saved by hope.” That kind of hope.” [Excerpt from On Being episode: CARRIE NEWCOMER — A Conversation with Music]

 

If you are feeling discouraged, alone, hopeless, powerless, small, isolated, or crippled with fear, listen to these songs and find a tiny bit of hope:

If Not Now (Carrie Newcomer): If not now, tell me when
If not now, tell me when.
We may never see this moment
Or place in time again
If not now, if not now, tell me when.

I see sorrow and trouble in this land
I see sorrow and trouble in this land
Although there will be struggle we’ll make the change we can.
If not now, tell me when.

Sanctuary (Carrie Newcomer): Will you be my refuge
My haven in the storm,
Will you keep the embers warm
When my fire’s all but gone?
Will you remember
And bring me sprigs of rosemary,
Be my sanctuary
‘Til I can carry on
Carry on.

You Can Do This Hard Thing (Carrie Newcomer): You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing

Lean In Toward the Light (Carrie Newcomer): Carry nothing but what you must.
Lean in toward the Light.
Let it go, shake off the dust.
Lean in toward the Light.
Today is now, tomorrow beckons.
Lean in toward the Light.
Keep practicing resurrection.
Lean in toward the Light.

The shadows of this world will say,
There’s no hope why try anyway?
But every kindness large or slight,
Shifts the balance toward the light.

She ended with this one, the whole room singing in unison these powerful worlds of inclusion:

Room at the Table (Carrie Newcomer): Let our hearts not be hardened to those living on the margin
There is room at the table for everyone
This is where it all begins, this is how we gather in
There is room at the table for everyone

Too long we have wandered, burdened and undone
But there is room at the table for everyone
Let us sing the new world in, this is how is all begins
There is room at the table for everyone

As I sat there mesmerized by Carrie’s whole being, I couldn’t help but be filled with a tiny bit of this hope. She encouraged us to sing along to a few of the songs, and as we blended our voices together in a plea for light we were united in song, united in spirit, united in peace. This is how we can interpret and live in our weeping world. This is how we can wake up each day and get out of bed and start walking. This little bit of light will carry us through. It will be our sanctuary. It will help us do the hard things. And, this light will remind us all that there is, indeed, room at the table for everyone.

Thank you, Carrie.

 

[All song lyrics and audio can be found on Carrie Newcomer’s website: http://www.carrienewcomer.com]
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In the pursuit of reclaiming my life, I've spent the recent months on sabbatical filling my days with thought-provoking words, compelling poems that speak truth into places I was unable to locate, pottery, and the pursuit of wholeness.
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Your Comments
  • Thanks for writing on this! I totally agree!

    The concert had an unexpectedly powerful impact on me. I had not heard Carrie until a few days before and am so glad that we went. I love self-referential things, and the words she said before singing “If Not Now” and, of course, the lyrics that she lead us in singing along to brought home to me how special that show was and how unbelievably spot-on her words and lyrics were for this place and time we find ourselves in.

    • A delayed response – but so true. I want to see her again. And I want to use the phrase “prairie mystic” as much as possible.

  • Yes! It was a wonderful concert, a balm for my soul. Lifting our voices, broken and imperfect, together in song was deeply reassuring, even uplifting. Thank you for writing this piece, and thank you to Carrie for bringing us together over her beautiful songs and voice.

    • Agreed! I keep seeing her schedule and wish I could see her again. We all need more of her continued message of hope in dark times, peace in all things, light in the windows around us.

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